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Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,931 ratings  ·  482 reviews
Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self offers a bold new perspective on the experience of being young and African-American or mixed-race in modern-day America.

In each of her stories, Danielle Evans explores the non-white American experience with honesty, wisdom, and humor. They are striking in their emotional immediacy, based in a world where inequality is a reality, but

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Hardcover, 229 pages
Published September 23rd 2010 by Riverhead Books (first published September 11th 2010)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  2,931 ratings  ·  482 reviews


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Tamara
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
I was excited to read this after coming across an AV Club Review calling it “a remarkable short-story collection in a good year for short-story collections.” But what made me especially eager to read it was something the reviewer said that didn’t sit right with me: "The biggest issue with Suffocate is that nearly every story features a similar protagonist. Evans writes this protagonist—a young African-American or mixed-race woman who’s trapped between her past and a more promising future— ...more
Roxane
Dec 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My favorite book of the year. It was such a satisfying, well-written collection with these awesome stories I keep wanting to read over and over again.
jo
Nov 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
i found this book exceptional. do you remember when jhumpa lahiri debuted with Interpreter of Maladies and everyone went WHOA? Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self is that good, though i'll be surprised if everyone goes WHOA, because, let's face it, the readership for young African American female writers is different from the readership for young Asian American female writers. and by different i don't only mean different, but i mean smaller, something i invite all readers of this teensy ...more
Brown Girl Reading
I usually have trouble loving short story collections but this one really won me over. Evans has constructed each story on large than life characters that we care about immediately. I've never read short stories like that before. The stories are longer than the usual 5-7 pages and maybe that's why I had the chance to really get into each story. The themes vary from race, to women issues to family and so forth. This is definitely 4,5 stars. I'm docking it a half star because I just didn't want it ...more
Melissa
Nov 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
If you, like me, have been picking books up for weeks, starting them & realizing about 30 pages that you do not care whatsoever about what is going on (Constant Gardener I am looking in your direction), perhaps you should give this book a try. It is scrumptious and excellent and has renewed my faith in the printed word. Thank you, Danielle Evans. Now hurry up and write some more stuff, please.
Rachel León
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some of these stories deserve 5 solid stars, others were in the 3/3.5 range so I'm giving it 4 stars. I was completely blown away by the first couple of stories and then there was a lull of good stories, but not with the intensity of the ones at the beginning--or the end. The last couple stories were amazing as well. Overall, it's a great collection and I'm in love with the way Danielle Evans writes.
Rion
May 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Suffocate is a collection of short stories about the Black experience in America. Every story dealt with a sensitive and taboo subject (especially within the African American community). Virginity, abortion, and post traumatic stress disorder are just a few of the subjects Suffocate discusses.

Some of the stories (Snakes, Harvest, Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go), are spectacular. As with most short stories, you are left with a sense of longing. You're left wanting more. You NEED
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Manika
4.5
Man... the longing, the melancholy, the impossible other reality, the sense of anger, despair, the battle with your own fool self against everything else... Man, was it unbearable at time.
Read By RodKelly
Short stories are interesting to me...I prefer novels, and I think that the general consensus is that in the world of fiction, short stories are not the first things people gravitate towards...

That being said, it takes a fabulous collection like this to make a reader understand what constitutes a great short story: unbelievably strong and fully realized characters placed in scenarios that test them as humans, but different from a novel in that the moment of the dramatic shift, the climactic
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Page Passion
"I didn't feel anymore like being myself was something for which I owed the world an apology."

That brilliant quote, ladies and gentleman, is from Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. Specifically from my favorite story, Robert E. Lee is dead. I related to this story the most, because I too felt ostracized for being the smart black girl and quiet. All of the stories were great and really made you think about life, the human condition and how our view on life greatly affects how we live.

At
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Obsidian
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book has a collection of 8 short stories. These are the following: "Virgins," "Snakes," "Harvest," "Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go," "The King of a Vast Empire," "Jellyfish," "Wherever You Go, There You Are," and "Robert E. Lee is Dead."

If I have to pick my favorite short story I think I am going to have to go with "Robert E. Lee is Dead." That's because the main protagonist of that story reminded me of my school days as the "smart one" in my high school. It was tricky for
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Ron Charles
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I hope Danielle Evans is a very nice person because that might be her only defense against other writers' seething envy. At 26, this D.C.-area author has already graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, earned praise from Salman Rushdie and Richard Russo, and appeared in two (two!) volumes of "Best American Short Stories." Now comes the publication of her first collection, "Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self," eight quietly devastating stories that validate the hype. No, she's not the ...more
Kathrina
Danielle Evans is like a breath of fresh air in the current offerings of short fiction. Her stories are in the here and now, told by your friends and neighbors whose voices are rarely heard. Evans has an exquisite talent at evoking the true essence of a character with just a few swift strokes. A few of the later stories (Jellyfish, Wherever You Go) tend to bog down in an overwritten explanation of an extremely grafted family tree, reading more like a diary entry than prose, but her best stories ...more
Candace
Dec 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
First, I hate short stories. Had I known when I picked this book up that it was a collection of short stories, I never would have done so. I read the second story thinking that it was the second chapter and struggled to find some kind of common thread linking it to the first "chapter". Never happened. Naturally. However, having said all this, I found that I couldn't put this book down.

I chose this book randomly because the title spoke to me. As a Parisian-dwelling-native-of-Virginia (you can
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Nakia
Dec 22, 2010 rated it liked it
What can one say about a collection of short stories, each one of them delicious enough to hope that they never end? I almost feel bad for only giving this book 3.5 stars (I gave the extra .5 on Visual Bookshelf, but GoodReads and Shelfari won't allow for that...I wonder why). The only reason it didn't receive a perfect score of 5? I didn't want any of the stories to end so soon, if that makes any sense. These stories should be novels!

I especially loved "Virgins", the story of two teen girls in
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Keli Redd
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When you read a book like this, you have more respect than you have “review.” Danielle Evans crafts stories in ways you wouldn’t believe, in ways that make it hard to just turn the page, and not reflect. I especially enjoyed that the topics of these stories are things that most people don’t talk about often, much less make movies after. The thing I felt which needed more development was the motif of neglectful parents. Each chapter was a story with its own shock value, but two of my faves are “ ...more
Mary
Sep 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
To say that this is a collection of short stories about "young and African-American or mixedrace in modern day America", as the dust cover does, is to seriously underestimate and limit the scope of this work. This is a book about individuality, about growing up, about families, about disappointment, about being different, about being left behind, about leaving others behind -- in short, this is a book about life, applicable to every race, creed and color.

The author has an amazing skill in
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Monica
Aug 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, genrex
4.5 really. Danielle Evans pushed me through my current sad pattern with short fiction collections. Usually I start out loving them and then I'm so exhausted keeping up with all of the new characters and all the new empathy that I'm ready to give up half way through.

Not so here. Evans writes about (mostly) young black women with brains and agency and fully realized characters. Everyone felt fascinating and familiar from paragraph one.

Seriously, she is really talented. I'll definitely be reading
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George
Nov 14, 2010 rated it liked it
certainly well worth reading. if we had 1/2 star options, I'd give it a 3 1/2. The second story, Snakes is overwhelmingly the most interesting story of the lot with a highly unexpected and original ending. the other stories are decent, but didn't grab me in the same way, maybe it's a guy thing. I did find some of the endings disturbingly abrupt, feeling that there really should be more there, so perhaps for me the stories weren't as self-contained as I would have prefered.
Wilhelmina Jenkins
This is simply a superb collection of short stories.
Allyson
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I took forever to finish reading this book, but not because it bored me. Rather, because I savored each story like a perfect little morsel. There's poetry in these pages and I enjoyed every moment.

I like to take my time with collections, reading just one or two in a sitting and usually when I'm still waking myself up in the morning or before bed at night--but not necessarily every morning/night because I want to be in a certain kind of mood. That way I can really let the beauty of a slow,
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Sansriti Tripathi
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Two 5-star reads in a row (this and Drinking Coffee Elsewhere)! This was just another amazing collection of short stories, but so different from Packer's. Whereas each of Packer's stories was hard-hitting in that they managed to capture one very distinct feeling (a sense of disillusionment with the human condition), each story in this collection was a powerful rollercoaster of emotion - it's astounding how Evans manages to encapsulate so many diverse sentiments into each <30 page story. Just ...more
Jan Priddy
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think I ordered this book because Roxane Gay said it was her favorite read of 2010. It might have been mine that year because in any year this is a great first book.

These are stories about relationships, stupid choices, and ambition. Many of the characters are in their teens and Evans has a good memory for what teenagers are like, what they want and fear most. She was young when she wrote these stories, but she got her characters right. Some of her POV characters are girls or women looking
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Rita Reinhardt
Standing right here in my B-Girl stance, got my hands on my hips like I don’t care! Who's bad? What a collection of throwbacks, memories and tales similar our everyday lives - the life we have allowed to become a surrounding surface of familiarity. When first introduced to before you suffocate your own fool self I was less than impressed, however I picked up this collection and eventually found myself intrigued. Honest Review: Some of the stories are great! While others left me underwhelmed. ...more
Sonia Reppe
Sep 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: shortstories
My favorite stories were Snakes and Harvest. The writing is really good but the tone is a little too cynical for me. You might argue that Evans is just being realistic, and I like realism, don't I? Yes, and I don't shy away from realism that makes you squirm a little when you see your own shortcomings, mistakes and/or misbehavior mirrored by the characters. But with realism you could take your characters down the redemptful (redemptive?) road or leave them in a state of hopelessness which I ...more
B.
Sep 10, 2011 marked it as to-read
Thanks to the Borders closing sale, I got the book for $2.59!!
Rebecca
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-read-harder
Read Harder 2017: Collection of Stories by a Woman

3.5 stars rounded up

I agree with a previous reviewer who said she felt like these stories started out strong (Snakes, Harvest, Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go), but then few of stories in the middle really just did not have an ending at all--it was different than a cliffhanger, they just stopped. That greatly slowed down my reading of the book, but luckily there was another fantastic story at the end (Robert E. Lee is Dead). Evans
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Angela Boyd
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’ve had this book on my shelf for a long time. I was afraid to read it because I thought it would hit too close to home, and because for me reading is usually escape. Today, though, I’m glad I did. I’m glad I read stories about young women confused about their place in the world; while I am not so young anymore, I am still often confused, and these stories made me feel seen.
Carrie
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
an astonishing collection; every story left me saying "holy shit" at its conclusion. will be looking for more from danielle evans.
Jessica
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Seemingly simple stories of girls and women, but Evans has a real knack of turning everyday people and situations into something profound and deep. Wonderful book!
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Danielle Evans is the author of the short-story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, winner of the PEN American Robert W. Bingham Prize, the Hurston-Wright Award, and the Paterson prize and a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 selection. Her work has appeared in magazines including The Paris Review, A Public Space, American Short Fiction, Callaloo, The Sewanee Review, and Phoebe, ...more
“Don’t push too hard; your last chance to see a person the way you wanted them to be may come at any moment.” 3 likes
“Appreciate the liars. When people don’t hide things, it means they don’t care enough to be afraid of losing you.” 3 likes
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